Lions looking into new markets for their existing USL PRO franchise in 2015 

 Photo/Mark Thor

When Orlando City SC arrives in Major League Soccer next year, the Lions will have to find a new home for its existing USL PRO franchise. That process involves evaluating markets that would be a good fit for the franchise and that are open to working with Orlando on an affiliate basis. One of those candidates is Louisville, Kentucky.

Orlando City President Phil Rawlins and Chairman John Bonner will make a trip to Louisville on Tuesday morning, meeting with various key groups- including the Mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer.

While the move won’t occur until 2015, it is important for Orlando executives that the franchise they so carefully built is moved to the right market.

Leading the charge for pro soccer in Louisville is a minority owner of Orlando City, Wayne Estopinal. Estopinal is President and Founder of The Estopinal Group, which is an internationally recognized healthcare facility planning and design firm. The company is based out of Louisville.

As part of their trip, Rawlins and Bonner also plan on meeting with The Coopers, a group of over 600 supporters who’ve begun a push to bring pro soccer to the Bluegrass State. The Coopers have quickly gaining members as a push is being made to acquire a USL PRO club for their town.

“We thought Louisville could do what a couple other cities have done, and that’s form a supporters group even though a club doesn’t exist yet to support professional soccer in whatever form it happens to present itself in Louisville,” said Coopers President, Taylor Sorrels, in an interview with the Courier-Journal.

The Coopers already hold 500 season ticket pledges, impressing Rawlins and others involved within Orlando City. “Louisville is one of the strong candidates for our USL PRO franchise,” Rawlins added.

An affiliate partnership could be formed with the new franchise; similar to the relationship that Orlando enjoyed last year with Sporting KC.

In 2015, however, that dynamic will switch, with Orlando the MLS team looking for a USL PRO affiliate. Will Louisville be that market? Only time will tell, but it will be an interesting storyline to follow as we head into the upcoming year.
 



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